WTCC: Moscow Raceway – Citroens Ma Qing Hua makes history
With a magnificent performance at the Moscow Raceway, Ma Qing Hua has made history as the first Chinese driver to win an FIA World Championship race.
– José-María López was the other star of the day’s proceedings, winning race 1 after starting from pole.
– Sébastien Loeb and Yvan Muller also enjoyed podium success at the Russian circuit. At the end of the weekend, the overall standings remain unchanged, with López leading from Muller and Loeb.
The first race got underway at the very start of the afternoon, in splendid sunshine. Starting from pole position, José-María López took the right options and succeeded in holding off Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro to reach the first corner in front. After Tarquini and Monteiro collided, Citroën’s Argentine driver emerged as the leader, with Tarquini and Loeb in hot pursuit. Back in fifth place, Yvan Muller wasted no time in moving past Tiago Monteiro. The two drivers continued to battle it out, a tussle that benefited Tom Chilton.
Out in the lead, José-María López managed to open up a gap of a few lengths, going on to record his fourth race win of the season. Despite always being on the lookout for the slightest opportunity, Sébastien Loeb eventually had to settle for third place, behind Tarquini. Yvan Muller reclaimed fourth spot by overtaking Chilton on the last lap. In his first FIA WTCC appearance, Ma Qing Hua kept pace with the best, finishing in sixth place after overtaking Norbert Michelisz and then Tiago Monteiro.
As soon as the podium ceremony was over, the mechanics set about preparing the cars for race 2, which was scheduled straight after the first. José-María López was left stranded on the grid due to a problem with his gear shift. Despite starting from the front row, Ma Qing Hua reached the first corner in third place, behind Valente and Michelisz. Yvan Muller got off to an excellent start, but went into a spin after he was hit by another driver. The four-time World Champion ended lap 1 in ninth position, just behind Sébastien Loeb.
Very quickly, a battle developed between Michelisz and Ma. The two drivers regularly found themselves door-to-door, before the Citroën man pulled ahead for good just before the halfway mark. At that point, Valente was serving a ‘drive through’ penalty, as his wheels had not been fitted in time on the grid.
The race was just as exciting in the chasing pack, with Yvan Muller producing a remarkable recovery. The driver of C-Elysée WTCC n°1 made his way through the field into second place, just behind Ma Qing Hua. The Chinese driver held off the veteran with aplomb, and was the first man to the finish!
After seeing off Gianni Morbidelli, Sébastien Loeb also made progress through the pack. He snatched fifth place from Michelisz at the last corner.
WHAT THEY HAD TO SAY
Yves Matton, Team Principal, Citroën Racing: “I think the races at the Moscow Raceway were particularly captivating for the crowd, with plenty of hard- and fairly-fought battles. Before the season started, I set the team the target of all our drivers winning a race. We have now met that challenge, with Ma Qing Hua adding his name to the list of winners. The first win by a Chinese driver in an FIA World Championship race is an historic moment, which is likely to boost China’s interest in motorsport in general and in WTCC in particular. This has been a really positive weekend for us, with all four of our drivers producing solid performances, and all of them making it onto the podium.”
José-María López: “Even after starting from pole position, I didn’t feel comfortable, as I knew that the Civics would make a strong start. Once again, I didn’t get away brilliantly, but I managed to cling on to the lead. I then attacked hard to pull away. It’s always satisfying to win a race like that, when you are rewarded for a good performance. I wasn’t quite as successful in race 2, but that happens. I’ll leave Moscow with the same lead in the championship standings, so it’s been a positive weekend for me.”
Ma Qing Hua: “First of all, I’d like to thank every member of the team, who did everything they could to help me make quick progress. It wasn’t easy arriving in the middle of the championship, and we’ve worked really hard to make sure I was up to the task. The races were pretty lively. I had to fight hard to move up the field, particularly to get past Norbert Michelisz. I hope that I can continue in the same vein in the future.”
Yvan Muller: “After a frustrating time in qualifying, I managed to limit the damage by scoring as many points as Pechito. It’s a shame I was hit by another driver at the start of race 2, as I could have won it. I came back at Ma at the end of the race, but I would have needed a few more laps to try and get past him.”
Sébastien Loeb: “I spent the first race on the tail of Gabriele Tarquini, but he just didn’t slip up at all. So I ended up third, which is a good result. In race 2, I made a mistake and dirtied my tyres, but I attacked hard to recover. Fifth place isn’t the ideal result, but it does earn me some valuable points.”